Update 1:00 p.m. EST: The Red Cross just opened a Facebook group to help area residents look for missing loved ones.
Update 12:30 p.m. EST: CBC Montreal reports a second explosion has just occurred in Lac-Mégantic.
In Lac-Mégantic, Québec, over 1,000 people were evacuated with several missing children after a train carrying over 2,000 tons of crude oil exploded in a sleepy Canadian town. Many residents are feared dead.
Early reports indicate this is the second time in two years that an oil tanker derailed, spilling massive amounts of toxic oil in the picturesque village. Both oil-tanker trains are owned and operated by Montreal Maine & Atlantic (MM Rail).
Eyewitness video and photos show the horrific 80-car train explosion that rocked the town sitting just north of the U.S. early Saturday morning, at around 1:00 a.m. EST.
The MM Rail freight train contained over 70 tank cars of crude oil, each holding up to 10,000 gallons of crude oil. Québec Provincial Police (QPP) is active on Twitter offering warnings to area residents and information on how families can report loved ones missing.
The shocking image (below right) was sent out by QPP and shows a photo of a Lac-Mégantic neighborhood utterly destroyed by the freight train explosion. The below left image shows Lac-Mégantic in its usual, pristine condition.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time this beautiful city has been damaged by an oil spill. In June 2011, an MM Rail train derailed and spilled nearly 13,000 gallons of diesel fuel into the area. While Québec firefighters were able to prevent the 2011 spill from contaminating the city's water, Saturday’s explosion is already responsible for widespread reports of toxic water.
The U.S. based firm Rail World, Inc. owns MM Rail and operates nearly 20 rail lines throughout the world covering millions of miles of track. Canadian residents were quick to point out the U.S. connection.
American oil firms have a long history of environmental disasters, typically caused by failed safety standards. Most recently, in March 2013 an Exxon Mobil pipeline exploded in Mayflower, Arkansas.
The Red Cross is currently on-site and providing aid for Lac-Mégantic residents. Donations are now open through the Red Cross. Hundreds of Lac-Mégantic residents are expected to be displaced from their homes as a result of this massive train derailment.
Keep checking back for continued updates on this horrific tragedy.